Monday 23 February 2009

Policy Watch

NZCCSS MEDIA RELEASE: Church Leaders Meeting to Discuss Social Impacts of Recession

On Friday 20 February, NZCCSS distributed its media release about the meeting of the NZCCSS Council and its member agency Church leaders in Wellington this coming Friday, 27 February. Click on the link above to read the text of the media release.

On Saturday 21 February, the NZ Herald ran an article based on the announcement of the meeting under the headline "Time to look at values, say churches". This lead story, by journalist Simon Collins, appeared on page 2 of the NZ Herald.

It contained a number of quotes attributed to acting NZCCSS president Ruby Duncan, including:
"There is a consensus that we have been a bit greedy and individualistic. People have been out for what they can get and we haven't stopped to think about how getting what we want impacts on families, communities and society... So for me there is an opportunity here to look at that and say, what does it take to have a healthy society? We don't want to go through this recession and come out worse off as a society. We want to come out healthier, having learned some things and realigned some of our values."

This section of Policy Watch looks at a number of reports that have been recently released that examine issues of concern to NZCCSS, some of which have been written by member agencies.

Voices of Poverty Dunedin Study

Late last year Presbyterian Support Otago published the Can we do better? Voices of Poverty Dunedin 2008 report. The report found that despite six years of economic growth and the introduction of Working for Families many low income households are still struggling. Key issues included an acute lack of money (many were ineligible for WFF), many faced barriers to paid work (primarily ill health or childcare responsibilities) and money worries were constant. A range of recommendations are made regarding how to improve incomes and housing, healthcare, childcare, energy affordability and debt management. Many of these findings are similar to those in the NZCCSS soon-to-be-released Grassroots Voices report.

Salvation Army – Into Troubled Waters: State of the Nation report

On Waitangi day the Salvation Army released their second State of the Nation report aptly titled Into Troubled Waters. The report offers a progress check list on a range of social issues including housing, work and incomes, crime and punishment, and social hazards such as gambling, alcohol and drug addiction. Social progress results were found to be mixed, for example housing is becoming more affordable for first homebuyers but there are concerns that progress made in reducing child poverty will slip as the recession impacts and benefit numbers will climb.

On the issue of housing, the Minister of Housing Phil Heatley recently announced in a press release that thousands of existing state houses will be upgraded and new state homes will be built as the Government fast-tracks $124.5 million worth of investment. The Salvation Army’s response has been that increasing supply is a welcome first step but will not solve the housing shortage. Labour’s energy spokesperson has criticised the housing stimulus package for failing to address energy efficiency issues for the 95% of NZ homes that are privately owned.

Beyond Reasonable Debt: A background report on the indebtedness of NZ families

Late last year the Families Commission and the Retirement Commission jointly released the
Beyond Reasonable Debt report
. The report looks at the indebtedness of New Zealand families and “explores the factors that might distinguish families who use indebtedness well from those who do not”. Both Commissions are interested in the financial well being of New Zealanders.

It’s not surprising the poverty is high on the agenda in many of the reports discussed above. Statistics NZ figures show that food prices have increased by 9.5% in the last year.

The Domestic Energy Use’s Network has noted that domestic energy prices have risen 5% faster than inflation and research by Dr Lloyd of Otago University has identified that fuel poverty has doubled for city populations since 2001.

Government officials at the Department of Building and Housing have also warned the new government in their Briefing to the Minister that rents are predicted to rise “putting considerable stress on low income families” and greater pressure on HNZC waiting lists already standing at nearly 10,000.

CONSULTATION: Property Managers and Low income tenants

The Minister of Justice Simon Power has announced a public consultation on views of the activities of property managers acting on behalf of property owners. Comment is being sought from all those involved in the sector including tenants and tenancy advocates.

NZCCSS members will have experiences of dealing with property managers when advocating on behalf of low income tenants renting in the private sector and we would welcome any comment from you on those experiences (both what works well as well as any problem areas that need to be addressed). Contact or (04) 473 2627. The consultation document is online at

CONSULTATION: It’s More Than Talk discussion paper available for comment.

The Building Better Government Engagement (BBGE) project reference group’s report, 'It’s More Than Talk', is now available on the OCVS website. ‘It’s More Than Talk’ includes options for building better community engagement skills, knowledge and values in the public service. Input is being sought now, and closes on the 31st March 2009.


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